Henry was born in the middle of the day on a Thursday in October. It wasn’t just any Thursday, and it wasn’t a surprise. He arrived exactly as his sister had, 3 days prior to his due date at 39 weeks, 4 days. As with his older sister, I had contractions several days earlier. But unlike my pregnancy with his sister, I had a sneaking suspicion these weren’t the contractions I was meant to be feeling.
On Monday, September 28, 2020, I busied myself making as many dishes as I could through a set of slightly painful Braxton hicks-style contractions. While Ben called into meeting after meeting, and Sofie played in the living room, I prayed that this little boy would stay inside until I’d had a chance to get food ready for the babysitter. As soon as I finished cooking, the contractions were over. And thus, I believed we would not have a baby until my parents arrived on October 3rd.
I sat down with “This is Marketing” and began to make notes as if it was any other day of the week as if there wasn’t a baby giving me major heartburning and pressing on my bladder, biding his time until he’d make his debut. I simultaneously felt ready to be done with this pregnancy and sad that it was coming to an end. I was scared that, when I actually did go into labor, it would be the middle of the night, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling someone to come take care of Sofie. We couldn’t take her to the hospital because of the pandemic. I was scared of wearing a mask during labor.
When I had Sofie, my parents were already in town, and I had no other children to worry about. And, when I had Sofie, I had not waited for contractions to head to the hospital. My waters broke, and I was induced. I was at a loss for what it would feel like to actually have natural contractions, to not feel the sharp increase from 0-100 in under an hour that pitocin causes. What if I didn’t know what to look out for?
Thursday morning, around 1:30 am, I started to feel that tugging, cramping. The start of a contraction. I went into the living room and drank some water. I thought maybe it was the grilled cheese we’d had for dinner the night before. The pain grew in my back and my lower abs, but I didn’t want to get excited or scared. So I went back to bed.
At 2:30, I was still having the cramping, and it was starting to get worse and closer together. I walked around the living room trying to “get rid of my fake labor pains” But nothing changed. The pain was still there. At 3 I finally woke Ben up. I labored at home, trying to lay down as much a possible to slow the contractions down until Ben finally called the nurse at 4:30. The nurse said it probably wasn’t false labor as I’d had another pregnancy and most likely knew what I was feeling. Still, I was skeptical. My contractions would be 2 minutes apart and then 12 minutes apart depending on whether I was laying down or standing up. We watched Gilmore Girls in the coziness of our room, I cradled around a pillow, and Ben running around getting things down to the car and ready for us to head out the door.
I labored long and the story remained the same. If I walked, the contractions got closer together. If I laid down, they spread out. It was totally inconsistent and not what I was expecting at all. I didn’t want the sitter to drive to us quite yet. It was foggy out, almost zero visibility, and I didn’t want her to get in an accident trying to drive to us in the dark. I took a shower, letting the hot water run over me and soothe my back. I put makeup on and got into (what Sofie calls) my day clothes.
At 6-ish, Sofie woke up. We had breakfast together while we waited on the sitter who we’d finally contacted and gotten ahold of. When she arrived, we called the nurse to let the hospital know we were on our way. I still didn’t truly believe Henry would be born that day. I thought maybe we’d be sent back home. As much as I wanted him to wait until grandma and granddad had arrived, I also wanted to meet him badly, and I really didn’t want to start this contraction process over again.
Throughout this pregnancy, I had made a note and gone on a tirade to Ben about how we needed to document labor, how I wanted to make a little film. On the way to the hospital, I got out the camera and began to video the serenity of the drive. Neither of us touched that camera again until after Henry was born.
We arrived at the hospital around 8 am, did our Covid-19 check-in, and headed to the maternity ward. I barely felt any contractions at this point and wondered if they would send me back home after all. Somehow, this made me feel embarrassed. I know so many people who go home to labor again or to wait a few more days, but I felt like I needed to actually be in labor right this minute. It turns out, I was.
At 10 I was admitted to a room. Ben and I promptly got out a snack, as I was starving. Then we turned on the labor playlist which began with “Posthumous Forgiveness” by Tame Impala. I told the nurse I wanted to try to have a natural labor. Contractions were getting worse, and I had Ben distracting me with conversation and peeks at the baby monitor to watch what Sofie was doing during this time. At 11:30, the contractions were miserable. I had come to the hospital dilated to 4 cm, and now I was at 6 cm. I thought for sure that I would make it through to pushing without any medication or an epidural. How bad could be it?
I remembered the body-wrenching feeling of contractions with Pitocin, and I remembered people telling me they were “way worse’ than natural contractions, but these didn’t feel any better. The contractions came fast and hard. I felt them come on before I could catch my breath from the last one. I tried swaying, bouncing, kneeling over a pillow. I tried squeezing Ben’s hand, we tried him squeezing my hips. Nothing even remotely helped. All I could do was cry and yell “I can’t do this anymore”. I just wanted him to stay in there. The pressure was worse than the pain which radiated throughout my back, my hips, my legs, my chest, my neck. The pain was everywhere. I begged for an epidural.
It probably took an entire hour for them to get it for me because I hadn’t wanted one before, and I wasn’t hooked up to the fluids. Once the anesthesiologist arrived and began the process, I sat through several excruciating contractions before she was able to get the catheter in my back. And then it was over. The cold, numbing sensation was dripping down my legs and lower body. I felt sleepy, finally. I laid down to nap at around 1:30 pm.
At 2, the entire medical team came into the room in a rush. Henry’s heart rate had dropped. They needed me to change positions. It turns out, I was also at 10 cms, and they could tell that he would be born quickly. I had to wait to push so that the OB could be there, and it was miserable. He had dropped so low, that all I wanted to do was push and be done. His position was exactly the reason I had to wait to push. The nurses knew it would be a quick delivery. Once the doctor arrived, I pushed a total of 3 times, and Henry was out and on my chest. He was quiet and cold. He needed a little skin-to-skin time to raise his temperature, but my beautiful little boy was here, and he was healthy.
The day had begun cloudy and dreary, but the afternoon sun came through the window, then and it shone on us. The room felt warm and cozy despite the medical equipment and the beeping and the numerous tests Henry was undergoing.
We spent the afternoon staring at him, his cute cone-shaped head, his tiny 6-pound body, his extremely long and gnarly fingernails. I couldn’t believe that his hair was red. I couldn’t get over just how small he was or how soft he felt in my arms. We watched Sofie on the monitor, called and facetimed with her. We tried to get ahold of everyone we could remember was supposed to hear the news from us rather than social media. In the end, the masks were an annoyance and something I took off randomly during the day but had no real impact on me as I’ve forgotten about them several times, but I chose not to wear it when nobody was in our room and for the rest of our stay. I couldn’t imagine my mask being the only thing my baby saw in his first day of life.
My beautiful, angel baby has made our lives so much richer. His smile lights up the room. His giggles are contagious. I love to see him interact with the world and with his sister. I’m blessed by him and his sweet personality, and I am forever grateful for that faithful October 1st.